Message from the Program Director

Kevin S. Masters, Ph.D.
It has been another very active year in the Clinical Health Psychology (CHP) PhD program. After serving as a Professor of Psychology, Director of the Psychology Clinic, and Coordinator of Clinical Training for the CHP program, Dr. Barbara Walker retired in the spring of 2017. Being in the Green Mountains of Vermont and to be with family proved irresistible. Barbara’s contributions to the development and ongoing work of the program were essential to having the tremendous clinical training that we now have. We wish her only the best in her retirement. To our absolute delight, Dr. Ed Dill agreed to take over the CHP program roles that Barbara held. Ed’s conscientiousness and hard work have already made substantial impact on the program. I, personally, am amazed at the energy he brings to work every day and his ability to visualize improvements in systems and procedures. The CHP program was fortunate indeed to have Ed agree to step into these roles. At this time the CHP faculty is short one member and we hope to conduct a faculty search during the 2018-19 academic year for our new member.
In the Spring 2017, all five of our internship applicants matched at very strong and APA Accredited Internship sites.  These include: Palo Alto VA Medical Center, AF Williams Clinic of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins University Children’s Center, and University of Missouri Health Sciences Center. Additionally, all members of the previous year’s intern class successfully moved into post-doctoral positions. Finally, in Fall 2017, we welcomed a brand new class of six amazing and eager students into the program! It was a great year in terms of students meeting milestones and we hope to do the same, or even better (not sure how we can do that but…), in the next year.
Internally, the program benefitted greatly from the work of the Admissions Diversity Task Force, chaired by Dr. Beth Allen. They worked very hard to understand the program’s commitment to diversity and how to both increase efforts in this area and better communicate this commitment. Currently, we plan to transition the task force into a broader standing Diversity Committee led by students and faculty to support inclusive excellence in all aspects of the program. We were also fortunate to receive the Rick and Elizabeth Gardner Doctoral Fellowship. After getting to know our students, Rick and Elizabeth (Betty Ann) felt moved to support them in their development as Clinical Health Psychologists.  We are very grateful for their generosity and the support that it provides for us to continue to recruit the “best and brightest!” Finally, I continue to be astonished at the great work of our CHP faculty. The members are dedicated to making the CHP program top caliber and are willing to “roll up their sleeves,” move forward, and solve problems in order to make that happen.
All in all it has been a wonderful year with high energy from the faculty and students, solid support from our Graduate School and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and continued establishment of our program’s reputation by our very fine graduates who are doing their good work at a very high level.
Best to all,

Rick M. and Elizabeth Ann Gardner Doctoral Fellowship

Rick and Betty Ann Gardner

The Rick M. Gardner and Elizabeth Ann (Betty Ann) Gardner Doctoral Fellowship was established in 2007 for supporting psychology department doctoral students enrolled in the Clinical Health Psychology program at the University of Colorado Denver. 

Rick and Betty Ann met in 1966 while both were graduate students pursuing advanced degrees in psychology at the University of Nevada - Reno.  Betty Ann was working towards a master’s degree in clinical psychology while Rick was pursuing the Ph.D. in experimental psychology.  Both Rick and Betty Ann required financial assistance to continue their graduate educations.  The University of Nevada – Reno generously supported them both with graduate assistantships throughout the course of their studies.    Rick and Betty Ann married in 1967 and began what would be a wonderful 50-year marriage.  Betty Ann died in December 2017.

Rick came to the University of Colorado Denver in 1991.  He served as professor and department chair of psychology for 9 years.  His active research program involved the measurement of people’s body size distortion and body dissatisfaction in a wide variety of populations.

Rick and Betty Ann agreed that financially supporting psychology doctoral students was an imperative, and the doctoral fellowship was established to accomplish that purpose.  It is their wish that the funds be used to recruit and support the highest quality graduate students who have an interest in Clinical Health Psychology. 

For information about donating to the CHP program, please go to:

Lab Updates

Healthy Couples Lab
Dr. Krista Ranby

The Healthy Couples Lab had a busy 2017.  Dr. Ranby chaired a symposium at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in April. As part of the symposium, Dr. Ranby, Jennalee Wooldridge, and Sydneyjane Varner presented talks on how length of cohabitation relates to health behavior similarities among engaged couples, how couples’ relationship functioning is affected by illness uncertainty following a prostate cancer diagnosis, and how romantic partners affect self-management of Type II diabetes. In the summer, Jennalee finished data collection and successfully defended her dissertation examining a dyadic intervention to increase physical activity among people with Type II diabetes and their partners. Shortly after her defense, she moved to California to begin her behavioral medicine clinical internship at the Palo Alto VA. We are excited about her upcoming graduation this May!  In August, Gillian Lloyd and Sydneyjane Varner joined the Healthy Couples Lab as first year PhD students. This fall, as recipients of the Rick and Elizabeth Gardner Doctoral Fellowship, Gillian and Sydneyjane each began developing a new project on physical activity participation among cancer survivors and their romantic partners as well as couples experiencing the birth of their first child, respectively. We have been developing connections for recruitment, writing COMIRB protocols, developing thesis proposals, and applying for grant funding. Visit our website and Facebook page for updates on these studies as they unfold! Both students also had abstracts accepted for presentation at next year’s SBM conference. Further, this fall we submitted manuscripts based on our three conference talks and a chapter on research design for the new edition of the Handbook of Health Psychology. Amidst our research activities, we co-hosted the annual CHP holiday party and ended this busy semester with some extra holiday cheer!

Pain, Addiction, and Spirituality Lab
Dr. Amy Wachholtz

We have multiple projects currently going on in the lab. Our largest focus is on developing improved psychotherapy treatments for patients with comorbid pain and opioid addiction. We are also working on a national dataset on frequent migraineurs to identify key determinates of outcomes to improve patient lives. In addition to these major projects, we have a number of smaller projects moving forward in the areas of pain and sleep, bio-psycho-social-spiritual concepts of health and wellbeing, and improving quality of life for palliative care patients.


CaLM Lab (Cardiovascular Health and Life Meaning)
Dr. Kevin Masters

The CaLM Lab had a successful and exciting year under the direction of Dr. Kevin Masters and Lab Co-Director Dr. Jennifer Boylan (faculty member in Health and Behavioral Sciences). Dr. Boylan is funding an exciting study, just taking flight, utilizing an experimental design to investigate the possible effects of life meaning on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery from psychosocial stress. Dr. Masters is site Principal Investigator (PI) on a grant to pilot test a group based lifestyle intervention (including nutrition, physical activity, mindfulness-stress management components) to treat metabolic syndrome. Due to the success of the pilot study, Dr. Masters learned that the team has now been funded for a 5 year randomized controlled trial that will take place in Denver and 4 other sites across the US. The pilot study demonstrated that 7 of 11 study completers experience remission of metabolic syndrome. Pertaining to completed work, several members of the lab were involved in a number of publications including: an exciting new theory of behavior change (Harnessing centered identity transformation to reduce executive function burden for maintenance of health behavior change: The Maintain IT Model, Health Psychology Review); Stephanie Hooker’s dissertation (Daily meaning salience predicts daily physical activity in previously sedentary exercise initiates, Health Psychology); a review and conceptual model on life meaning as related to health (A meaningful life is a healthy life: A conceptual model linking meaning and meaning salience to health, Review of General Psychology); and an assessment of the impact of monetary incentives on fitness center use (Do monetary incentives increase fitness center utilization: It depends, American Journal of Health Promotion); among several others. Finally, Dr. Masters was awarded the Cynthia D. Belar Award for Excellence in Health Psychology Education and Training from the Society for Health Psychology.

Psychology Clinic and Clinical Training News
Dr. Edward Dill

During the past year, we made significant changes to aspects of our clinical training in order to better prepare students for future clinical practice. Each student has the opportunity to present at our newly instituted Psychology Clinic Grand Rounds once per year in order to gain experience with participating in case conferences, as will be expected of them in many medical centers. This approach allows all three clinical supervision teams to come together once per month to learn about clinical diagnosis, case conceptualization, and eclectic treatment approaches for a wide variety of presenting problems. It also provides an opportunity for students to receive feedback regarding future directions with clients from students and supervisors working on different teams.
On the psychological assessment front, our clinic has transitioned to an assessment model, typical in hospitals, in which most testing occurs in a single day. Because many of our students will go on to work in medical centers, this new training approach better prepares them for future externships, internships, and professional practice. In order to accommodate this important training model, our Psychology Clinic is now open one Friday per month, which allows us to conduct up to 7 full-battery assessments simultaneously. Students learn how to thoroughly prepare an assessment battery before the testing day (based on the information gained from an intake interview) and how to implement a flexible testing plan that can evolve based on data obtained from prior tests. A clinical supervisor and an advanced graduate student are on-site throughout the testing day to provide immediate supervision and consultation.
Finally, the Psychology Clinic was the recipient of a significant grant from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) that allowed us to greatly enhance the technological capabilities of our clinic. The grant supported the purchase of many iPads and other portable devices, making it possible to conduct multiple simultaneous all-day psychological assessments, to obtain ongoing treatment progress measures for therapy patients, and to increase the efficiency of our day-to-day operations. The generous support from CLAS helps to ensure that our students continue to receive state-of-the-art training in utilizing new psychological instruments and technologies that support clinical practice.


Research Highlights

Core CHP Faculty (Note – these are highlights only, meant to pique your interest. Complete information can be found on the various web sites or other outlets).
Kevin Everhart – is a co-author of a forthcoming publication in the journal Infancy on how maternal depression affects infants’ normal preferences for the faces of “motherese” speakers. He is also leading a research project of associations between variations in a single-nucleotide polymorphism in the oxytocin receptor gene (rs53576) in mothers and infants and symptoms of depression in the postpartum period.
Jim Grigsby – received a grant from the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders/NIH to study effectiveness of teletherapy following cochlear implants in young children. Jim has also been very active preparing grant proposals to examine the role of the microbiome in topics ranging from multiple sclerosis to immune insufficiency to cognitive impairment following chemotherapy. He also continues to investigate FMR1 (fragile X mental retardation 1) gene and associated phenotypes.
Kristin Kilbourn – is a co-Investigator on a NIH grant examining effects of prenatal stress on child development. Continuing work on caregivers of people facing serious medical illness including cancer.
Kevin Masters – continues his research on the role of spirituality in coping with cardiovascular disease and with overall physical activity. He is the site Principal Investigator on a grant from William McGowan Charitable Foundation to pilot test a lifestyle intervention called Eat, Love, Move (ELM) for treatment of metabolic syndrome. Dr. Masters has also pioneered collaborations between the Clinical Health Psychology Ph.D. program and the University of Colorado Anschutz Health and Wellness Center on the Anschutz Medical Campus.
Krista Ranby –currently is investigating using dyadic science to aid smoking cessation in couples where both partners smoke. (See above for a profile of her lab).
Jonathan Shaffer –was awarded a grant from the Center for Women’s Health Research to develop a mobile psychosocial intervention for women with spontaneous coronary artery dissection. He published 4 manuscripts as co-author and mentored one undergraduate MARC scholar and eight doctoral students.
Amy Wachholtz – secured a R34 grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA/NIH) to improve psychotherapy for individuals with comorbid pain and opioid addiction that includes a training component for addiction treatment providers. She is also involved in collaboration between the Downtown Denver and Anschutz Medical Campuses. She is a member of the NIH Palliative and Supportive care board, which develops evidence-based practice material for the National Cancer Institute to disseminate to mental health and healthcare practitioners in oncology.
Beth Allen – Dr. Allen has served as Principal Investigator (PI) and co-PI on two large grants investigating the emotional and relationship functioning of Army couples over time. These large data sets are now serving as the basis for student dissertations and multiple papers and conference presentations.